Conlon: Thoughts about culture in our country
Yesterday, I sat down with James Conlon at Music Hall to discuss many things, among them, the state of culture in our country today. One of the ironic things, he noted, is that we have thousands of excellent musicians and singers graduating each year from conservatories such as CCM, more orchestras and opera companies than ever -- yet there seems to be an increasing apathy for great art -- literature included -- in our country.
I thought this was an important point that he made. He was not referring to the demise of the Columbus Symphony, but you could see it in the context of a city that seems to be abandoning something it has cultivated for more than a half century.
My question: Many orchestras struggle for audiences. How do you keep the public renewed and interested?
Conlon: "Education has failed us in that regard and many others as well. Those of us who devote our lives to classical music have to roll up our sleeves and figure things out. We are carrying an unfair burden – when the federal government has let us down, when many local governments have let us down, and when, to be honest, churches have let us down.
"All communities should be playing a role in the preservation of great values from our civilization, and I consider all the classical arts and literature great accomplishments of our civilization, which need to be kept alive by a constant contact of the greater population.
"It has come to be in the last generation and half, that the political message has been that this is elite and therefore unworthy of widespread support.
"To me this is my big mission. I have the mission about the 'Recovered Voices,' but my big mission is to do whatever I can as an American conductor and as an American artist, and most of all as an American citizen, to stem the tide of this very unhealthy development of the marginalization of classical arts and literature."